Social care is an ever-changing sector and I know first-hand how difficult it can be sometimes staying on top of changing guidance, best practices, and ensuring you remain compliant for the regulator. This is where consultancies can play a valuable role in your organisation.
In this blog post, I’ll be looking at the importance of social care consultancies and their benefits to care services.
What is a social care consultancy?
A consultancy is an organisation that provides expert advice and guidance on a range of things.
We often think of care consultants, probably because they are the most common in our sector. However, you can hire social care consultants to support with important aspects of your service, including:
- Guiding the strategic direction of your organisation
- Managing financial aspects, like developing budgets, forecasting, debt management, and cash flow
- IT matters, like implementing new systems, training, changing systems, and updating software
- Handling legal tasks, like managing contracts, resolving disputes, and developing policies
The benefits of social care consultancies
Care consultancies are important because they can support with a range of things.
Here are five benefits of working with them.
1. Audits and mock Inspections
The consultancy can come into your service and act like the regulator to inspect your service.
They can also undertake audits on your service on a wide range of things, including medication, care plans, care notes, and infection control. From these, they can produce a report with an action plan of areas for you to address, and areas you have been excelling.
It is worth noting that the regulator also like to see that someone other than the Registered Manager has carried out audits.
Having an external consultant come into your service allows you to provide evidence during inspection that you have allowed a third-party organisation in to check on the quality of your service.
Under regulation, the nominated individual should be carrying out their own audits and inspections, and this does not always happen. With a consultant, they can do this on their behalf and feedback the actions required. Whilst this is not best practice, in some services where the business owners live abroad, this is often the next best thing. It is worth noting that the nominated individual should have accountability though, and a consultant can ensure this happens.
2. Cost saving analysis
The social care consultancy company can look at your finances, and where you are spending money, and give you practical ways to reduce these to help make your business become more efficient and financially viable.
In the past, I have used consultancy companies help me write tenders, get a better deal with PPE/utility providers, and re-haul agency spends.
As well as current guidance and advice to help you save money, some consultancy organisations can also support with business growth and development. It may be that you are looking to open more services, expand your current service, or move into another area of adult social care, and a consultant can help with this.
In my experience, they have been able to support with developing a plan, timeline, and support with implementing it. The benefit I found by using a consultant was that they were able to:
- Scope the wider area
- Look at competitors
- What was already in the area
- What was lacking
- Do a competitor cost analysis
- Help establish the demographics and population
- Help create a business case and marketing plan.
3. Monitoring visits
Consultants can shadow your team and get involved, which allows them to capture any poor practice, highlight good care standards, and identify areas for improvement.
From this, you can then provide training, implement new ways of working, and different methods to increase the level of care that you and your team are providing.
Monitoring visits can also prevent and mitigate risks as they can expose these earlier on, allow you to address them, and prevent the situation from escalating.
As well as the service you manage, social care consultancies can also offer you best practice from other services they support – which allows you to adapt, grow, and develop as a company.
4. Support mechanism
Not all Registered Managers have the same support, and I have seen this for myself over the years. Some companies have been really good, and some have let me just get on with the role and managing the service and have had little input or interest.
A Registered Manager in some services can be a very lonely role, and if you have no one checking your work, often you are left until the regulator visits and provides that inspection report. A consultant can help here, and can be that person providing you with supervision, carrying out additional audits and checks, holding you accountable, and supporting you in your development.
Consultancies are not just about coming in and finding the errors, they are about development, progression, and ensuring you and the service are at the level needed.
5. Advice and guidance
Most consultants come with a wide range of experience, which they can impart to you. They will be able to provide you with up-to-date regulations, trends they are seeing in other services, local authority information and competitive data – for example, they may be able to share what other services charge per hour or per week.
In the past, I have hired consultants that have had a background in HR. They have been able to support in redundancies, managing a change process, and providing me with new policies, protocols and guidance.
This best practice and up-to-date knowledge can then be shared with your teams, the people you support, and their representatives which can help improve your reputation.
How to hire an effective social care consultant
Before you go out and hire a consultant, make sure you do your homework. There are some rogue ones who will take your money and offer you little in return, and sadly I often hear of these cases.
Prior to seeking a consultant, here are a few things to think about:
Consider why you want to hire one, what your challenges are, and what you want to achieve.
What measurements are you going to use to monitor the success of a consultant?
This will depend on your “why” in the section above, but think about how you will monitor their performance and value to your organisation.
Think about when you need someone, and for how long. Make sure the consultancy is available at the times you need.
Do your research. Speak to other providers and try and get someone that they recommend.
Word of mouth is often the best route. You can also check out the consultant’s website, speak to them, read their reviews online, and do some background checks.
You want to make sure that they are going to work with you and for benefit the organisation, not against you. I have worked with some organisations that have interviewed consultants before booking them, and this has allowed them to get a better understanding of their experiences and the work they have done for other providers.
It is essential that you make sure you know how they stay up to date with best practices and regulations, so that you know the information you are receiving is up to date and accurate.
Make sure you find out how much you are going to be charged, and don’t get stung by hidden fees.
Check to see if you have to pay for things like their mileage, hotel expenses, and call out fees.
We always say in the care sector: document everything and, if you haven’t written it, it didn’t happen.
Consultancies are no different. Make sure you write everything you have agreed on – things like the timeline, the fee, and the terms and conditions. This will help to avoid any misunderstandings.
My last piece of advice would be to trust your gut. I always think you know in the pit of your stomach what is the best thing to do.
You might already have a number of consultancies or consultants in mind, or a few recommendations. You need to go with the one that gives you a good feeling.
Make sure you don’t sign into any long-term contracts, as this gives you the flexibility to change if you are unhappy. Fingers crossed you get it right the first time, and you will know when you do as you will have someone that is able to provide you with expert advice, provide you with guidance, and support you and the success of the business.